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Mysteries 2015, Pt 2

A month ago I locked one of my patron deities in a box. Shortly beforehand, he told me to spend the month of solitude “taking care of myself.” I didn’t like this idea, as I had mentioned in my first post on this year’s Mysteries, but I decided to roll with it, as I feared that ignoring his request demand would result in missing out on a learning opportunity of some kind. I’m one of those annoying people that runs headlong into everything that the gods throw at them, even if the task is suckfest, because I’m always looking for the chance to improve or learn.

So I did what he asked. I placed him in the shrine, locked the doors and did nothing for a month. Or at least, nothing overly religious. The ideas I had had about blogging about mourning, the rituals I wanted to do, all of it got put on hold in an attempt to do nothing but “take care of myself” as Osiris had asked of me.

As the month passed, I pondered about whether I should be doing anything more for O while he went through his annual “rejuvenation vacation”. Should I give him incense every day? Should I be actively mourning? Should I be contemplating life and death? And then I’d remind myself that I’m not supposed to really be doing anything that didn’t play a role in self-care. He didn’t give me instructions beyond taking care of myself, and yet all I could think to do was find ways to put myself out in an attempt to honor Him.

I’m not good at this, sometimes.

Even though I was constantly worrying about what I “should” be doing, deep down I knew that I didn’t really want to think about death or mourning. I had had so much experience mourning over the previous year that it was the last thing I wanted to think about. In a way, I was probably a little bit happy that he wasn’t leading me through gut-wrenching adventures this year. It’s very true that I even though I wanted to do more for the Mysteries, I desperately needed a break from everything I had been through. But even though I was doing my best to take care of myself and not worry about Him or what the Mysteries entail, I found myself thinking about mourning all the same. I’d watch something thinking that it would be okay, but then there would be a character who had lost someone- a friend, a family member, their dog- and suddenly I’d be thinking about death again. I’d slip back into the depths of my own mind and constantly remind myself of what I had lost.

Even though he had told me to not focus on the Mysteries, the themes of the holiday found me all the same. If there is something that I’ve learned about death and mourning over this past year, it’s that it finds you whether you want it to or not. In many ways, it’s out of your control.

I want to diver for a moment and mention that normally I wouldn’t have made a second post about this set of Mysteries. My “celebrations” (inasmuch as anything tied to the Mysteries is a celebration) included things like lighting incense when I felt inclined, fiddling with the beads that O made me wear while I scrolled through tumblr, or leaving water in front of Set’s icon so that he wouldn’t get thirsty. And those were only the productive celebrations. Aside from these things there were plenty of days where I did nothing but be a sack of sadness, or where I’d sit in my chair and disassociate for half an hour.

When it’s all said and done, I did very little for this year’s rites. Because I did so little, and because there is no overarching take home point to tell all of you about, I usually wouldn’t bother to even bring it up to begin with. I’d move on to other posts and other topics that might have a more perceived benefit for my readers than telling you about the month where I wallowed in depression.

However, it’s also a pretty well-known problem that a lot of people assume that people like me always have something going on. “Everyone else has more involved practices than I do. They are able to do so much more!” And I wanted to give you an example of what my practice commonly does look like. I have periods of intense work (such as the Mysteries of 2013), and those are often followed up with months of very little- much like what you’re reading about here.

Not every holiday will be spectacular. Not every rite will be mind blowing or eye opening. Sometimes the only point a god is trying to get home to you is that you are worth taking care of, and that you need to take care of yourself. Sometimes doing nothing is good, even if it’s not what we want.

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By the time the month was drawing to a close, I was super ready to open the shrine again. Upon thinking about it more, I believe that part of the reason that I wanted to do so much was because I wanted to reconnect with the gods after having been gone for so long, and I think this played a role in wanting to skip the final day and open everything up early. However, I can understand that those feelings are misplaced when I allow them to drive me into doing too much and losing all of my spoons, and as such, I forced myself to wait the full cycle before opening the doors. I finally had gotten some flowers to place in my mini-vase, and so I adorned the shrine with them in celebration of Osiris’s return.

That is a summation of the Mysteries of 2015. A whole lot of sitting around and doing very little. Sometimes that’s all you can do. Sometimes that’s all you should do. And sometimes it’s a little bit of both.

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2016 in Kemeticism

 

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Mysteries 2015

This year I decided that I was going to celebrate the Mysteries like I used to once upon a time. In recent years I have done work Over There with Osiris for his yearly holiday (if it can be called a holiday), but I haven’t done too much out here to mirror that. Due to an inability to do anything last year here or there, I decided that I would make sure that I did the physical trappings of the holiday in my home this year, even if I couldn’t do anything else.

Originally I had wanted to do more, but Osiris wouldn’t let me. He’s been consistently telling me that he doesn’t want me to do anything more than my standard rites. It’s not that I haven’t offered to do more, it’s that he doesn’t want me to do more. “You need to take care of yourself” has been the motto. I’m not really sure how sitting on my thumbs when I could be running some community heka is taking care of myself, but he was very firm in his request. I didn’t want to ignore his demands, as that might be missing the point that he was trying to drive home, but I have been less than happy about being told to do what I equate to nothing.

Nothing is not something that I excel at. Even when I fully want to sit around and be lazy, I have a hard time letting myself indulge in the behaviour. Even when I know that I need to stop and rest, I have a hard time actually following through. I have been raised to always be busy, even when it’s not particularly productive or helpful to me. However, Osiris has told me many times over that doing nothing is important. It’s part of his process, part of his Mysteries, if you will. After you die, you do nothing. You lay there completely inert and helpless. You are at the mercy of the world around you. Your only hope is whoever you have around you to help assist you in the process. In the case of the Mysteries, those people would largely be Anup, Aset, Nebhet and Heru. In a more human sense, it would be whomever outlives you- usually family members and friends.

Nothing is part of the process. In order to really understand and embrace Osiris’ ways, you have to learn to do nothing and be somewhat okay with it.

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This year’s rites were not that different from the ritual I linked to above. I cleaned out my shrine and the surrounding area. I removed all excessive decoration and made sure that everything was clear of dust. I selected a range of re-ment offerings to leave in the shrine box with Osiris for the next month. I focused largely on bread and beer, as they have a lot of significance to Osiris due to his associations with grain. I also included some greenery and placed the bread offerings on top of a lily pad to represent new growth. I included an egg and a bowl of nuts for fertility. Incense in a shade of green to invoke growth and to also bring the gods forward, as they love good smelling things. I included scarabs, which are all about rebirth. I placed a chicken leg on top of the bread because it’s the closest thing that I have to a beef foreleg, and has ties to Opening the Mouth ceremonies and symbolizes strength and power. And a chocolate, because who doesn’t love chocolate.

What is different from past years was that I included myself in the shrine box for once. I placed myself opposite of the offerings and Osiris, as a means to invoke a follower giving things to their god. I’m not sure if that would be historically supported, but he gave me the permission to do so, so I thought I would try it.

I also changed up some of the wrapping style this year. I included my amulets with him. The djed pillar tucked close to his back for stability. The sekhem wrapped up close to his chest for strength. And the ma’at feather to help him achieve balance in his endeavors. You would include amulets with a mummy, so I felt that it was applicable here as well.

I placed everything in the shrine and probably stared at it for 20 minutes before I could bring myself to close it. Once it is closed, you can’t open it until the following new moon, and that weighed on me particularly heavy this year. I asked him if it ever got easier- going through this process of death every year. He told me no, and that that was the point. If I was not being effected by it, then I was not truly open to what I was experiencing.

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Once I could finally bring myself to do so, I closed the doors and locked them up. One month of not being able to access anything inside. One month of doing “nothing” or whatever it is that Osiris has tucked up his sleeve.

And it’s not just one month for me, either. It’s one month for Set as well. The downside to performing the rites in this fashion is that he loses his home as well. A yearly reminder that stability and Order come at a price. A reminder that nothing is truly ever stable or eternal, but that only through the consistent work of everyone can stability or eternity hope to be achieved. A reminder that his place within the pantheon of the NTRW will always be a little bit love-hate.

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Although it might seem weird to place Set in front of the shrine, since he was the one who initiated Osiris into these Mysteries, I think that it can be fitting. He stands guard in front of the shrine, protecting its inhabitants in the same way a shrine bolt does every day. He is the one who bore Osiris’ coffin across the Nile to the necropolis, and even Griffiths had surmised that Set felt some sorrow or remorse for what had happened. I think it may seem a little weird from a purely Osirian context, but my experiences with both of these gods together has led me to believe that Set can protect Osiris from harm while he is inert. That which has the propensity to harm us can also save us.

I place Anup on top of the shrine to watch over the process. It is through his skill and knowledge that Osiris can become reborn and whole again. And I include Aset with Set to help with the mourning process. It is through the work of everyone’s hands that Osiris makes it through the tribulations of death and the Duat.

All there is to do now is wait and see what “nothing” brings.

Relevant Posts:

 
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Posted by on December 12, 2015 in Kemeticism

 

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What an earthquake taught me about discernment

Arizona is not known for it’s earthquakes. In fact, Arizona is probably not known for much in terms of natural disasters. However, earlier this month, Arizona had the pleasure of experiencing 3 earthquakes in one night. Typically this isn’t something I’d bring up on this blog. TTR is about Kemeticism and astral tom foolery, not geology. However, as I sat in the dark looking for information on why my house felt like it had just done a small dance, I noticed something really interesting about people’s reactions that made me think about a rather common topic in paganism: people were questioning their discernment.

You see, I bring up the whole “Arizona is not known for earthquakes” because it’s rather relevant for this story. You’d think that an earthquake would be pretty easy to discern even if you’d never experienced one before, right? The ground moves. Everything on the ground moves with it. Sometimes your house makes noise. Sometimes pictures fall off the wall, or chandeliers shake. It’s pretty straightforward, right?

Apparently it’s not straightforward enough, because many Arizonans were questioning what exactly had happened to them- myself included.

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Even though all of us had felt the ground move and knew that earthquakes and little else usually involve the ground moving, we were all scratching our heads going “did I get that right?”

This seems to be how it goes with the Unseen, too. So many times we seem to think that some stuff should be pretty easy to discern. “If I see this sign, then I’ll know for sure that this is real.” “If I experience this, then I’ll know for sure that this is real.”

But how many of us actually operate that way? How many times have we seen something smack us straight in the face, and we still deny it?

“Every single reading I’ve gotten has pointed to X, but I’m still not sure that it’s actually X.” “I had a vision about the thing, and then a dream about the thing, and then a reading about the thing, but I’m still not sold that I’ve got it right.”

It seems that questioning your experiences isn’t really something that only happens in the pagan community. Even for something as blatant as an earthquake, because Arizonans believe that “those things just don’t happen here”, many of us second guessed whether we had actually felt the ground move. The only reason I was looking up information online was because I really had a hard time believing that I had felt the ground move, that I had felt an earthquake happen (even though I know for a fact that they do happen here in the state).

Now imagine what that’s like for something less physical. Something a bit more nebulous and harder to prove one way or the other. It’s really no wonder so many of us have problems with discernment. And while this experience didn’t teach me how to discern better, it did teach me to be a little less hard on myself when trying to figure things out. It’s taught me to question ingrained ideas about what I consider to be “logical” or “within the possibility of being real”. And possibly even more importantly, it taught me that so many others question just like I do. It seems like a lot of people assume that people instantly assume anything they experience is real without a second thought. But as you can see in the screencaps above, that’s apparently not the case- even in mundane matters. So many of us question things that should be pretty obvious. So many of us struggle with discernment.

Discernment isn’t easy (probably for anyone), and this experience has definitely reminded me to be more patient with myself (and others) when I am trying to discern the “truth”out of something. I have to remind myself that questioning everything to death is more normal than most of us assume, and that there reaches a point where questioning is no longer doing anyone any benefit. Now if only discerning stuff from the Unseen was as easy as discerning an earthquake- then we’d be on to something!

For more information on how to fine tune your discernment, check out the FAQ.

 

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Spirit Work & Mental Illness

Alternate title: Quit romanticizing my illness.
Alternate title #2: Quit demonizing my treatment.

Every so often I will see little flare-ups in the pagan community that center on two fairly unrelated topics: spirit work and mental illness. Don’t get me wrong, these topics can be related, but they aren’t necessarily related, though many people try to make them out to be. I’m sure many of you have seen articles like this and this that go on and on about how we’re killing our spirit workers because they have mental illness and are not handling it “properly”. And if we’d only just learn how to “properly” handle these “gifts” that we’ve been bestowed, we’d suddenly find that our problems would poof out of existence.

Being a spirit worker myself, I read these posts and feel my jaw clench shut as I find rage welling up in my stomach. These posts are so damaging on so many levels, to both spirit workers and the mentally ill (as well as mentally ill spirit workers), and it really bugs me that so many people don’t see what is wrong withposts like this. There are so many flaws with these kinds of posts that it’s almost impossible to know where to start when critiquing them. But here are a few of the main problems that come to mind whenever this sort of stuff shows up on my FB wall or dash:

Your illness is really a gift from the divine!

One of the first issues that I see popping up with these kinds of articles is the idea that  your mental illness is not actually an illness or a problem, but is really a gift from the gods. And if you’d just learn to accept that, you’d feel all sorts of better! This is also sometimes presented as “if only our society would see the inherent worth and value of your mental illness, you would feel all sorts of better”.

The truth of the matter is, most of the spirit workers I’ve met who are also mentally ill don’t feel like their mental illness is “divine”. I’m here to tell you that I don’t perform as well as a spirit worker when my mental illnesses are flaring up and ruining my life, and it seems like many people feel the same way. Even if society were to somehow make it a-okay to be depressed and anxious all of the time, I would still feel pretty miserable regularly, and wouldn’t be able to operate at maximum capacity.

Mental illness is an energy suck. It sucks the life out of you and leaves you feeling drained, tired, and miserable (most of the time). I can’t imagine how anyone would find this to be divine in nature. Quite honestly, I would expect being tired, drained and miserable would be the opposite of being divine. And no amount of outside support is going to change that my illnesses leave me feeling like crap on the regular. You can’t sunshine and rainbows away mental illness. You simply can’t. And implying that this is a gift is like spitting in the face of every person who has to work really hard to function despite their mental illness/es. Implying that someone with mental health issues doesn’t really know what their illness “actually” is is also ableist. Of course, if you are mentally ill and wish to make it a part of your spirituality, or find that it is a source of power for your spirit work, that’s fine. But it’s one thing to believe that your particular mental illness is a strength for you, and quite another to imply that everyone else who is mentally ill should operate the same way.

I’ve also never understood why so many people believe that mental illness always makes you a spirit worker. I have been depressed and anxious for as long as I can remember, but spirit work wasn’t really a part of my life until I was in my mid-to-late 20’s. And truth be told, my mental illness didn’t really play a role in my becoming a spirit worker (and based off of what I’ve read, mental illness was not a common indicator of spirit work in some cultures in the past- physical health was another story, though). If anything, my mental illness often gets in the way of doing what I need to do Over There, and there are many times when I get really frustrated with the constant interruptions that crop up from my brain deciding that it needs to tank my mood right when important work needs to get done.

There are many mentally ill people who are not spirit workers, and who don’t want to be spirit workers. Conversely, I’ve met plenty of non-mentally ill spirit workers. I’m not sure where this idea originally came from, but it’s an idea that needs to stop propagating. You can be mentally ill and a spirit worker, you can be a spirit worker who isn’t mentally ill, and you can be mentally ill and not a spirit worker. None of these things is necessarily related.

Medication is bad, m’kay?

The other factor that I see constantly brought up in these articles is the idea that if you’re using western medicine in any capacity, you’re drugging your abilities away, or ruining the gift that you’ve supposedly been given.

For anyone that has been following me for any amount of time, you know that I have worked on finding ways to medicate myself, and that I’ve had a fair amount of success with it so far. Quite frankly, I wouldn’t want to go back to pre-medication me. Medication can take all sorts of forms, and since mental illness can’t really be cured, we really have no place to judge what works or doesn’t work for another. So long as you’re being responsible and healthy about your medication choices, that’s really all that matters. The idea that medication is somehow going to ruin you is so damaging, and prevents people from seeking out treatment. It causes people to be miserable because they fear seeking treatment, or they feel like treatment makes them weak as a person.

Everyone really needs to stop implying that medication is inherently bad (you are treating an illness, after all. And if you’d take medicine for a physical illness, you shouldn’t be chastising someone for taking medication for a mental illness). There are so many people I have met (spirit workers and non-spirit workers alike) who have become better and more stable because of their treatments. I have met spirit workers who feel like their medication makes them better spirit workers. Because, wow, you can actually get more work done when your brain isn’t working against you.

Discernment? What discernment?!

Something else I’ve noticed when these kinds of posts are trawled out is that discernment seems to go down the tubes. In many ways, people seem to believe that if you happen to “see” something that “isn’t there”, then it must be a spiritual experience, and can never be a symptom mental illness.

The truth is that many spirit workers who have mental illness will tell you that there is a definite difference between the symptoms of their illness, and what they experience as a spirit worker. I have met people who have told me that their hallucinations have a very different look and feel in comparison to their astral visions and travels. I’ve met others who tell me that the non-existent things that they hear sound different than when a spirit is talking to them. I’ve met others who tell me that their medication has shifted their experiences (sometimes good, sometimes bad) and that once they took a closer look at their experiences, they could tell what was more induced via medication, and what was genuine.

However, when these posts start throwing the baby out with the bath water, and assume that all visions are the same- regardless of your “gift” of a mental illness, then we stop focusing on discernment and learning how mental illness and spirit work actually play together. Because they can play together, and there are distinct differences between the two for most of us who live with both. When discernment goes out the window, you’re creating a recipe for disaster, because discernment is key to staying safe while working with not only the Unseen, but within our community itself.

Why I consider this to be dangerous.

I personally believe that these sorts of ideas are not only incorrect and damaging, but I personally believe them to be entirely dangerous. They are dangerous because they don’t create an atmosphere where people who are mentally ill can actually seek out treatment that works well for them. The notion that all Western medicine is inherently bad and will completely screw you up often demotivates people to consider all possible treatment methods, and may cause people to skip over a particular treatment type that works for them. It may also be a strong enough argument to convince someone to stop treatment, even if it is working for them. And when people who are mentally ill don’t receive proper treatment, we often run into other problems that causes a decline in our quality of life. Buying into narratives that perpetuate this will cause people to get hurt in very real ways. I have met people who believed that they could spirit work their mental illness away, and let me tell you that the results were often not pretty, and in many ways, produced the exact opposite effect of what they desired.

This is also damaging to the spirit worker community and the wider pagan community as a whole. It causes people to feel inadequate in some ways, and gives people power that they wield poorly in others. The idea that all mentally ill people must be spirit workers creates a rift within the community, as those who are mentally ill, but not spirit workers may feel like they’re doing something wrong. “If all mentally ill people are supposed to be special, but I’m not getting anywhere, then I must be a screw-up, right?”  And if you happen to be a mentally ill spirit worker who is undergoing therapy or treatment, you may suddenly question if you’re also doing it wrong, because apparently these things will prohibit you from being as “good” of a spirit worker as you could be. Not to mention that it makes the spirit workers who are not mentally ill feel ostracized in a community that is already pretty small, niche, and hard to get into.

It sets up this expectation that most people will not meet, and that people shouldn’t have to meet, and yet people continue to push this narrative as if it’s 110% absolute truth. These ideas hurt those who are already vulnerable (mentally ill people) and inadvertently sets them up for a very likely failure. It takes the conversation off of important topics that could actually benefit mentally ill spirit workers (topics such as: how do I tell the difference between a spiritual experience and my mental illness, how do I tell the difference between the astral and a hallucination, how do I work around these crippling symptoms I am experiencing from my illness, how do you manage spirit work and mental illness, etc.) and puts the conversation onto a useless topic of “your medication is bad and everything would get better if you’d just become a spirit worker”.

Yes, it is true that our society doesn’t handle mental illness well. Yes, it is true that we would all benefit from having a society that accepts mental illness and treats it like the illness that it is. But I still don’t believe that spirit work is the cure for all mental illness (quite the opposite, really). I don’t believe that spirit work will make every single mentally ill person feel better (I’m still mentally ill), in the same way that I don’t believe that every mentally ill person is meant to be a spirit worker, or is even necessarily having a spiritual/Unseen experience (many of my symptoms have been exactly that- symptoms, not genuine spiritual experiences). In many ways, mental illness and spiritual experiences can have some overlap, but they aren’t inherently the same thing and it’s better for everyone that this becomes a more recognized and understood thing. I would love to see more discussion on their differences and similarities than the constant “they are all the same” that you seem to get in the posts linked above as it would actually help the mentally ill people that everyone is so intent on discussing.

 

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Thoughts on Oversharing

I have learned that if there is one thing that will get you side-eyed in the wider Pagan community, it’s oversharing. I’ve lost count of how many posts I’ve seen where someone will discount experiences, ideas, and people based off of how much information someone has revealed about a given topic in a certain amount of time. For example, if you show up to a new Pagan group and your first post/interaction tells everyone every intimate detail about your personal life, odds are everyone will take 3 steps back and be leery to talk to you for a while. Simply put, oversharing is often a red flag for a lot of people.

Oversharing is defined as “revealing an inappropriate amount of detail about one’s personal life,” and the truth is, we do have quite a few people in the community who do share quite a lot. However, the line between sharing and oversharing is a hazy one, and will likely shift depending on who you’re talking to. Some people think that sharing pictures of your shrine is oversharing. Some people believe that you should never talk about your magical workings because that is oversharing. Others consider talking about anything sexual (whether tied to a non-physical being or physical being) to be oversharing. But in contrast, some people are okay with all of these things and welcome people to talk about them with as many juicy details as you can remember.

The act of oversharing isn’t inherently bad, but it does carry a stigma with it in almost every corner of our society. I find this to be somewhat unfortunate because it does tend to shut people down from openly discussing topics that might be beneficial to the group, and it can alienate members of a community. I myself have been guilty of oversharing, and I go through waves where I suppress my desire to share things about my life- both in the physical and in the Unseen- because I fear what could come of posting such things online where others can see it. This brought me to consider why it is that we sometimes overshare, and perhaps why it is that others dislike oversharing so much?

Why do people overshare?

In order to answer this question, I looked back at my own experiences to see why it was that I was so prone to oversharing once upon a time. If you were to take a look at my tumblr feed now, you’d probably think to yourself “Devo, you don’t overshare at all”, and you’d be correct. That’s because I fell out of the habit of sharing much of anything personal, and became almost too private in some respects. However, if you were to go back into my archives and look at, say, March of 2013, you’d see a very different story. The same could be said if you dug up my old LJ- I used to share an awful lot of random, useless information about myself, my practice, and my astral happenings to anyone who would listen to me.

But the more important question is: why?

Looking back at my own personal incidents of oversharing, I think the main factor for myself was anxiety. I was anxious about all of this new stuff that was going on, and I needed to put those emotions and feelings somewhere. Of course, I could have placed these emotions in a safe place where no one could see them, but then I wouldn’t be able to get feedback on what I was experiencing, and any possibility of experiencing validation from my peers wouldn’t have occurred. Validation during an anxious time is huge for a lot of people, and I was no exception. I can definitely recall myself asking and posting a bunch of very specific things, hoping that someone somewhere would happen across it and go “oh that thing! I know that thing that you speak of! It is definitely a thing!” All I really wanted was for someone to make me feel like I wasn’t losing my mind or making things up. And that caused me to share anything and everything that I thought could produce that sort of result.

Another aspect of this might be microblogging. Many people will microblog as a means of managing anxiety. This can be less about validation, and more about managing emotions in a more controlled environment where you are less likely to cause harm to anyone. Microblogging can also allow you to receive constructive (or not-so-constructive) feedback from people that can help you in whatever situation you find yourself in. And I think in many situations in the Pagan community, people are making multiple posts with lots of personal details because they are trying to cope with the anxiety they are facing about a given situation. Whether that’s tied to the prospect of gods actually talking to you, or of a deity actually having emotions for you beyond platonic friends, or the possibility that you fell into a non-physical plane and were chased by a group of people.

All of this Pagan stuff is kinda overwhelming when you first come into it, and I think that that influences a lot of why people overshare. Especially when they start out. It’s less about being an “attention whore” and more about trying to cope and understand what you’re learning and/or experiencing. And in that same vein, I have found that most people will slowly share less and less as they get more experienced. It’s as if you gain a sort of filter or “standard” for what should or should not be shared with others. And for many people, it’s that very standard that they use to judge how much others should be sharing about their own practice- which can be detrimental if it causes someone to treat people poorly over it.

Is oversharing bad?

You may be looking at this and hearing about how oversharing is disliked and wondering if it’s a bad thing to overshare your experiences. The truth is, oversharing is not inherently bad. So long as you are comfortable with the amount of information you are sharing, that is what is most important. However, there are some instances where oversharing is probably not recommended that I feel everyone should consider.

The first consideration is your safety. Oversharing can be problematic if you’re handing out information that can be used to cause you harm. Harm can come in many forms when it comes to the Pagan community, and so you should consider things from several angles before posting something online. For example, one of the biggest things people are warned about is posting anything that could lead people to where you live, work, etc. You wouldn’t want to post stuff that would make it easy for stalkery types to find you, or stuff that might cause you to lose your job if someone sent the information to your boss. However, that’s really just the tip of the iceberg. Data mining and manipulation run rampant in the wider community, and you should be careful not to post too much information that might make it easy for someone to manipulate you, lie to you, or fake a spiritual experience to get something out of you.

Another thing to consider is your audience. Sometimes people are not equipped to handle oversharing or overly sensitive topics. Making sure that you are putting your information in a place where others can choose to engage or skip the information based off of their current needs is important. You wouldn’t want to weigh someone down with baggage that they can’t handle. Those types of situations don’t benefit anyone. In addition to this, if your content is too mature for your audience, could trigger your audience, or my break the rules of a particular group or forum you’re in, then you probably should reconsider whether you should be sharing or not.

It’s also important to consider the needs of anyone else you might be mentioning in your sharing. If your experience includes someone else besides yourself- whether that be a physical person or a non-physical entity, you should heavily consider what effect your sharing of that information could have on the other people involved. If you’re not sure, it’s probably better to double-check with them before posting any relevant information. And if your sharing could hurt anyone in particular, you should also possibly reconsider.

Why all the hassle with oversharing?

The one thing that I haven’t been able to really pin down is why we consider oversharing to be an inherently negative thing. Why is it that we automatically assume that the less you share, the more legit your practice is? Does it have to do with the appearance of being secure in your practice? Does it have to do with some notion that oversharing is a cry for attention, and that that is somehow bad? Is there something else that we have possibly missed all together?

The more I have picked apart the ideas and methods behind oversharing, the more I have realized that many of us judge those who share a lot about their lives unfairly, or perhaps too quickly. Divulging large parts of your practice doesn’t really indicate anything, in all truthfulness. I’ve met people who share a little and people who share a lot- and I’ve met people who seemed legit and not-so-legit in both categories. Even though I’ve been trained to consider oversharing a red flag, I’ve not found that it necessarily indicates something either way about the accuracy, discernment or truthfulness of the individual in question.

It seems to me that oversharing often gets a bad rap for no particular reason. It’s my hope that by reconsidering the nature of oversharing- what causes it, and how much is truly too much can help us to redefine what it means to share vs. overshare. I mean, so long as you’re being critical in what you share, or considering the things mentioned above, there really isn’t anything wrong with sharing your experiences in whatever capacity you feel is best.

For those of you who share a lot- are there any reasons behind why you share as much as you do? Have you received any negative feedback or associations tied to your openness?

And for those of you who are critical of oversharing- are there reasons behind why you are critical? Have you found any trends with oversharing that have made you wary of the practice?

 
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Posted by on October 13, 2015 in Rambles

 

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The Weight of Worth

I think it goes without saying that I have a fairly shoddy family life. My relationships with most of my family members are strained at best, and completely beyond repair in a lot cases. While they’re not the worst people in the world, they aren’t exactly the best, either. Or at least, they’re not always the best for me. Maybe if I was straight, neurotypical or lacking in mental health issues out the wazoo it wouldn’t be such a big deal. But for whatever reason, my relationship with my family is still not ideal in a lot of ways.

Because of this, I hide a lot of what I do from my family. They don’t know about my personal life or my relationship with my partner that’s been going on for almost a decade now. They don’t know about my life in the Unseen (could you really imagine how they’d react?), and they don’t know about my work with the Kemetic community. They have a passing knowledge that I’m “not Christian” and that I’m “not entirely straight”, but that’s about as far as their understanding goes, and I like to keep it that way. I worry that if they were to find these things out about me, they’d eat me alive the first chance that they got.

This can be difficult to manage, though, as there are times when I would like to share these aspects of my life with other people that I know in the flesh. There are times when I’d love to show how my work online has influenced my life offline, or utilize online or religious experiences to show my family members how they’ve got the wrong idea about me.

A good example of this is the very frequently used “you’re so angry” trope. This usually happens when I’ve managed to catch a male family member off guard by calling them out on something problematic, and they end up deflecting with a “well you’re so angry all of the time, it must really suck to be you.” Of course, calling women angry as a means to belittle them and derail the conversation into a different, more personal topic (often called an ad hominem attack) is pretty well discussed and well documented in our society. In many ways, women aren’t allowed to be angry. We’re only allowed to be nice and happy and fluffy cuddles all of the time. So when this happens, I’m not entirely surprised, just agitated that this is how a grown man chooses to handle criticism.

And as I sit there and watch this grown man throw around the whole “you’re so angry!” as if that invalidates everything I have to say, I often find myself wanting to do one of two things. The first is to tell them that I am angry, and for good reason. Who wouldn’t be angry that their family treats them fairly poorly, or that their upbringing was less than ideal and how that still effects things to this day. Who wouldn’t be angry for being a second rate citizen within our culture. Who wouldn’t be angry about getting paid less for doing more work, for being shunned by politicians, the media, and the general population. Who wouldn’t be angry for getting the short stick. I usually want to follow this up with statements about how my gods have taught me not to fear my anger, but to embrace it and use it for making change. I want to tell them about how the NTRW have pushed us all to be more accepting of ourselves and our emotions, even if those emotions are not always considered “appropriate” by our society. In this moment, I want to talk about Kemeticism and how it has influenced my ideas about anger, and to push my family member to reconsider their ideas about anger (and women being angry). But as I said above, I can’t.

The second thing I want to do is to shout back at them “no I’m not!” and to tell them that they’ve got me all wrong. I want to tell them about all of the work I’ve done online, and how I’ve worked to help others, and the joy that that brings me. I want to tell them about how my partner makes me happy and has brought balance to my life in ways no one else has. I want to tell them that despite all of my shortcomings, I’ve worked so hard to make something of myself, and that I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot despite what I was born into. In this moment, I want to talk about Kemeticism and how it’s not only enriched my life, but allowed me to enrich the lives of others and how important that is to me. But again, I can’t.

But really, both of the above paragraphs are accurate. I am angry and not angry at the same time. Like most things, it depends on the subject matter as to whether I may appear more disgruntled or less disgruntled. I’m going to have a very different emotional response to kittens as opposed to rampant sexism. And to base a person’s entire personality off of the emotions expressed over one topic is really not cool or fair, especially if you’re using it to deflect criticism of problematic behaviour.

But more importantly than all of this, is the fact that I shouldn’t have to defend myself in regards to my perceived anger. I shouldn’t have to prove my worth based off of my community work. I shouldn’t have to prove my worth because “I’m not really all that angry, I promise.” I shouldn’t have to be ashamed or perceived as less than because of the emotions that I am experiencing. I shouldn’t have to defend myself at all for expressing what I feel in a healthy manner. And I shouldn’t have people trying to debase everything I say because of the notion of anger.

The more I reflected on this, the more I realized that while I had internalized all of the lessons that Set had given me about anger back in the Pit all those years ago, I still had more work to do in regards to my anger. Yes, I can accept that I am angry. Yes, I can utilize my anger in a positive fashion. Yes, I can control my anger and channel it a lot better than I used to be able to. All of these lessons are still with me today.

But what I didn’t internalize or take with me is that I can be angry without needing to prove that I am allowed to be angry. In so many ways, I have been conditioned to believe that I can be angry and upset because I do all of these other useful things that negate that anger. There seems to be this internalized idea that I can be “less than ideal” because I do other things that live up to our society’s idea of what we should be doing with our lives (hint: it centers around being productive for someone else 24/7).

anti capitalist love notes

My worth is not based around what I do for the community. My worth is not based around how productive I am or am not. My worth as a human and as a person is inherent simply because I exist. My anger is justified and valid because it is a feeling that I have, and I don’t need to go do all of these “good deeds” in order to be justified and valid in what I already feel. I don’t need to go do good things as a means to weigh against the “bad things” that I feel.

And above all, I don’t need to pull this information out to prove to random angry manchildren that I’m really “not all that bad if you’d just give me a chance.” I don’t owe him anything, and I certainly shouldn’t have to give out personal details in order to earn his respect (as the respect should be inherent). And really, none of us should have to. Our society likes to imply that we are only valuable if we are productive, but that’s really not true. You don’t owe society a thing, and you shouldn’t have to prove to anyone that you deserve to continue to exist.

Part of my practice has been about coming to terms with who I am and how I feel, as well as learning to embrace parts of myself I have been made to deny and hate for years. And while I’ve made a lot of progress, this past year’s interactions with the manchildren in my family has shown me that I still have a lot of work left to do. As I often say, the rabbit hole has no bottom or end, and so it seems to go with shadow work as well.

 

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People > Gods

I remember seeing posts a year or two ago from various Piety Posse members who were attempting to draw proverbial lines in the sand. In these posts, they stated that they didn’t want certain people in their religion. Mainly, these people would be those who didn’t honor the gods in a certain way. People who didn’t give the offerings they deemed proper. People who didn’t practice their religion in exactly the same way that these people believed to be “fit”.

It is funny that we draw our lines in the sand over offerings. Over shrine adornments. Over UPG and personal interpretations of myths. We draw lines over things that are personal aspects of each person’s religious practice, and are relatively unimportant in the grand scheme of things.

We are okay with drawing lines in the sand over people who we deem as being disrespectful to the gods. But we have no qualms accepting people into our fold that are being disrespectful to our co-religionists.

I find this to be contradictory in a lot of ways. The first being that gods are supposed to be these really big, bad, powerful beings (by most accounts). So you’d think that a big, bad, powerful being would be able to reach down and tell someone to stop being a twat-waffle if it was really that important to them. It seems to me that the gods could manage their own devotees and if it was a big problem that their devotee offered them Wonderbread instead of some all organic, whole wheat, dolphin-safe bread, they’d let them know. I don’t see why gods need to rely on humans on the Internet to dictate personal religious preferences and choices.

But the bigger issue here, I believe, is that if we were to start drawing lines in the sand regarding toxic and bigoted people amongst our community members, we might be forced to take a closer look at ourselves.

And looking in the mirror can be scary some days. Who knows, you might find that those very people you are speaking out against are embodied in some of your own actions, and then you might be forced to reflect and change your behaviour.

It’s much easier to speak for what a non-physical being may or may not want. It’s very simple to sit down and say “XYZ deity said that you should do ABC and that’s that” because the gods live in a completely different plane of existence. They can’t simply come down from their temples and homes and manifest in front of a group of people and say “No, Johnny, that’s actually not what I said. Can you please shut your yap and quit telling people that I said that.” Talking about what we believe the gods do and do not want is simpler because there is no way to prove someone wrong. I could tell you that Set said that he only wants the finest booze for every single offering you ever give him ever again- and no one would really be able to prove me right or wrong.

The best a deity can do is go to another devotee, tell them the skinny, and hope that the devotee will make a counter point to the original statement, and that people will listen (“Actually, Devo, Set told me that we can offer him whatever”, for example). But even then, if Sally says “Johnny, XYZ deity came to me and said that you’re full of shit and to stop saying that”, it doesn’t take much for Johnny to find a way to discredit everything Sally has said and then we are back at square one.

So basically, it seems to me that many people often speak for the gods because gods are the low hanging fruit in a religious community. For all intents and purposes, they can’t stand up for themselves and tell people when a mouth piece is full of crap and people take advantage of that. I think this can manifest in many ways from what is considered proper offerings to proper shrine structures to what we should be wearing when in shrine to what is considered proper etiquette when part of a religion. We touch on all of these relatively frivolous things because there is no way for anyone to really call someone out on the impudence of their statements.

However, when we start talking about more physically tangible, serious topics- the dynamic of the conversation changes. When we start talking about people and the rights of our fellow co-religionists, the whole game changes because these tangible, physical people can actually publicly respond to you. And that is powerful in ways that gods simply are not.

You see, if I start talking about how racism is bad and we need to combat it, but then I turn around and make a racist comment- physical people can actually call me out on it and raise a fuss. If I make post after post after post about how we need to be respectful to one another, and I start acting like a dick somewhere, people will call me out on it, and I will lose my credibility and stance in the community.

You see, when I actually choose to talk about physical people, those physical people can tell me if I’m full of crap. And that’s something the gods can’t openly do.

This is pretty easy to see when a certain BNP wrote a while back about “proper” offerings to the gods. In this post, the BNP made statements about what is considered “proper”, but also made a lot of inflammatory racist and classist comments as well. In terms of offerings, it was harder to really say anything, because outside of what we can infer from historical texts, it’s really up to personal interpretation as to what is “proper” when it comes to offerings. Because what the gods ask of me in terms of offerings may be very different from what the gods ask of someone else.

But those racist and classist comments? Those are easy pickings. Why? Because people are able to actually respond to the commentary that was presented in the post (where as gods can’t say anything). On top of that, it’s not difficult to include facts, data, and statistics in a response that helps to reinforce what you are saying. Get enough people involved, and it can become a tidal wave that ends up destroying your credibility in the community at large.

And so because of this, I think a lot of people purposefully avoid talking about the topics that are truly important and difficult within the community because to do so would not only leave us open to real criticism, but it would also force so many of us to take a look at our own biases and bigotry. Gods forbid we actually address the things that are effecting our co-religionists. Gods forbid we actually do something to help the fellow human beings we are experiencing this thing called life with.

Gods forbid we actually put people before gods for once.

I want to challenge the idea that the gods are the most important factor in a religion. Yes, it’s true that the gods are important- they usually play a pretty hefty role in most people’s religious practice, and they are pretty cool to work with. However, people are just as important as the gods, and I believe that in some cases, people are more important than the gods. And I think that’s easy to see because almost nobody is actually talking about humanitarian issues in the community at large. And it leads me to wonder if no one is talking about these issues because they are actually very difficult to discuss, especially if you happen to be participating in groups, posts, and activities that perpetuate the oppression you’re supposedly against.

When you start talking about human rights and humanitarian issues, you have to actually look at yourself and make sure you’re not perpetuating things that go against these issues. Going back to the beginning of this post- you have to actually take a long, hard look in the mirror, analyze what you see, and then actually change your behaviour to walk the walk.

And I don’t think many people want to actually do that. They’d rather tackle the simple stuff that can’t really be challenged.

From my perspective, our religion is nothing without our co-religionists. The gods can’t survive off of an audience of one, they need more people in order for their cults to be successful. And our people are only as successful as the network we create as fellow humans. If our network puts our people down, our people can’t be successful and people will actively avoid joining the religion or engaging the gods because the social dynamics are horrible. As I said in my post about compartmentalization– when one of us suffers, we all suffer. And it’s near impossible to to practice a religion that doesn’t support you as a whole person. And when you make your religious space not only open to everyone who is respectful, but make it safe for everyone too, the gods benefit because there are more people giving them bounty. They benefit because more people will want to worship them. They benefit because the people benefit (which is a pretty common theme in ancient Egypt- the King is the head priest of Egypt, and his role is not only to care for the gods, but to care for the people of Egypt).

If I had to draw any lines in the sand, I would have to draw them in between myself and anything that doesn’t support our fellow humans. It wouldn’t be over offerings or shrines. It wouldn’t be over UPG or myths. It would be over people, and whether you are treating people well. The fact that so many pagans can’t seem to understand how important our people are shows that we certainly have a problem with our priorities; as well as a lack of understanding as to how religions actually survive beyond a single generation. People are the gods best asset, and to draw our lines over anything less seems silly to me.

 
24 Comments

Posted by on August 26, 2015 in Kemeticism, Rambles

 

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